February 2, 2023

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Ann Kohler: "Not of the World" - A break from life

Ann Kohler: “Not of the World” – A break from life

Hempel isn’t easy: his last name always makes for involuntary comedy, but his first name is even worse. The young man has been learning aimlessly for years and lacks ambition and perseverance. When his energetic girlfriend Elvie asks him what his biggest dream is, he lies to her that he wants to run the New York Marathon. Stupid that he had already received confirmation and suddenly found himself at the airport with his luggage and so desperate.

Struck Hotel guests

An exit comes in the form of an airport employee who waves him aside and takes him to a secret hotel in Berlin. This hotel is a project of the reclusive architect Valentine, who wants to give people a chance to escape for a while and find themselves again. Frederick also ends up here, a lecturer whose career is interrupted by an unwanted pregnancy and mired in motherhood. Similarly, Linda, who is afraid of heights and only dares to go to the balcony because from there she can secretly observe Valentine in his apartment.

Based on these flawed characters, Ann Kohler aims to meet the excessive demands and demands of the present. It is about complex mother-son relationships (Humble and Valentine both suffer from their overactive mothers), and about expectations one cannot live up to (despite her best efforts, Frederick simply does not feel the joy generally assumed in being a mother)..

Swipe on social media

Time and time again, Ann Koller digs into a society that bans women with strollers from smoking, but celebrates a father’s commitment when men with babies in their arms meet for a beer. Or you criticize self-promoters on social media who pretend to have the perfect life for others: “Everything was a distraction and a deception out of a lack of self-confidence. The inferiority complexes and profile neuroses had to be compensated for somehow.”

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Koller puts it all together into a perfectly funny scheme, for example when Humble, who is not actually listed as a hotel guest, runs away in Valentine’s car with Linda and Frederick, a precursor to a wild chase through Brandenburg.

A fast-paced novel with wit

The story is not entirely convincing. The characters’ problems seem all too stereotypical, all the twists too predictable, and every now and then the plot seems completely implausible: can you really keep a hotel in the center of Berlin a secret for years?

Nevertheless, the author manages to create an interesting setting – the building is a maze of hallways and niches that seem to deliberately confuse guests – and a wonderfully light, magical narrative tone: Is the hotel perhaps not quite out of this world? Thus Not of the World is a novel with some strengths and weaknesses, which it makes up for with plenty of humor and pacing. This will keep you entertained as a reader.